A performance horse is an athlete. And like their human counterparts, equine athletes achieve their best results when they consistently follow a structured regimen. A comprehensive, structured regime for a performance horse should encompass nutrition, exercise, hoof and leg care, dental care, grooming and overall health and wellness. But remember: your horse is an individual.
That means a one-size-fits-all approach won’t do. Reaching and maintaining peak performance requires a customized nutrition and training program that takes into account both the particular athlete and the type of sport. Here are a few tips that could give your horse a leg up in the coming competitive season.
Get the right amount of energy
From racing, reining and endurance to dressage, jumping and polo, equestrian sports place rigorous physical demands on the athletes. Compared to grazing horses, for example, performance horses expend substantially higher volumes of energy.
Therefore, to perform at the top of their game on a consistent basis, they must take in more energy. Good sources of energy include carbs, starches and fat. Additionally, the amount of energy you incorporate into your horse’s diet on a given day should be dictated by the amount of energy expended that day.
There are many well-balanced feeds on the market. If your horse is eating a balanced daily diet and getting nutrient replacements after exercise, it’s more likely to perform at the upper levels of it’s abilities.
Pay attention to joints
During strenuous workouts and competitive events, horses put enormous stress on their joints.
Repetitive stress and strain on joints can cause soreness and inflammation, which may result in lameness.
You can combat this inflammation and prevent further injury by applying poultices and ice to affected joints. Both treatments will help reduce heat and swelling. In addition, systemic anti-inflammatory drugs such as phenylbutazone and previcox can aid in reducing inflammation in joints.
For more persistent inflammation and lameness, another option to is to perform a joint injection.
A steroid administered into a joint is an extremely effective way to combat inflammation. As well, a joint lubricant such as hyaluronic acid can be given along with steroids for added comfort. In many cases, just one or a few joint treatments will bring long-term relief to your horse.
Consider chiropractic therapy
Chiropractic therapy is an alternative treatment that can help performance horses suffering from issues such as body stiffness, joint stiffness, back pain and neck pain.
Chiropractors start by determining the nature and location of the horse’s health problem. Then they use their fingertips to palpate the patient’s body and legs. The objective is to identify the precise areas that lack mobility or display heat or knots.
If such areas are detected, the chiropractor may perform an adjustment intended to help restore normal function. Following successful chiropractic treatment, your horse will enjoy improved flexibility and range of motion. It will also be noticeably happier and willing to train or perform.
Groom for success
Quite often, the first impression a horse makes is through its coat. With daily grooming, your horse is more likely to look like a winner and stand out from the competition. But it’s not just about appearance. A horse’s coat is also an important window into the animal’s state of health.
Healthy horses have shiny, even haircoats, without an excess of either oiliness or dryness. Winter coats are longer and thicker, but should shed out completely in spring. During grooming, take the time to look for problems such as cuts, punctures and lumps.
By adopting a regime of regular grooming and monitoring for health issues, you’ll build a stronger one-on-one relationship with your horse that benefits both of you.
Elevating a performance horse to the upper levels of competition requires a team effort. If you follow the above tips this spring, you’ll help your equine athlete reach his or her full potential. Good luck in the coming season!